The last city on our whirlwind tour of Japan, is Tokyo! Even with two days, it wasn't enough to see everything we planned to. If you like, you can catch up on our day in Osaka and our day in Nara/Kyoto. Japan, is such a wonderful country. Tolerant, respectful, polite and clean. How many places have you been to that you'd drink from fountains like this:
I've taken a sip at all the fountains I've seen since being in Japan and I didn't get sick, you should have seen the looks my kids were giving me, lol.
Moving along, after some delays, we arrived at our air bnb and subsequently had to rush off to meet my best friend, from elementary school, for dinner. After dinner we took a stroll around and then had a beer or two while my wife and kids shopped. This was such a welcome reprieve from the hectic of days past and what was yet to come. But first let tell you a story of a shop that saved my whole Tokyo experience.
For some reason I forgot my camera battery charger. I had the wire but no charger. I found out the night before the Nara/Kyoto outing. No big deal right? Canon is from Japan so I can get one easily. How wrong I was! During our day in Nara/Kyoto I walked into every shop that I thought may have it, no luck. Not even the huge department stores where there was a whole floor dedicated to camera stuff had any in stock and our guide took me to three such places! So with only 1 battery left, with any juice at all, I was feeling miserable knowing we were leaving for Tokyo in the morning and our itinerary was full. So being the first one up and all packed I decided to Google camera stores in Tokyo. For some reason I found this shop and Google showed it to be within walking distance (30 min away) and OPEN. I made it there in 15 min. I got back to the air bnb just in time to help bring the luggage down. Here's the shop:
If you're ever in Osaka near Namba train station and need camera gear early in the morning, hit these guys up! Now if only I had a way to charge my batteries on the way to Tokyo...
Ok so back to our first full day in Tokyo, first stop, Akihabara. Even though we were told that there was a lot of anime related shops and stuff, we were shocked and in awe of the sheer awesomeness of it all! So much so, that I didn't take any pictures! There are multi story buildings with nothing but anime stuff and I found lots of my favorite stuff, from Dragonball Z to computer parts! Of course my kids had their favorites as well, which now included Gachapon. You know those coin machines that dispenses a plastic ball with a toy inside? Yeah those...there are tons of those machines everywhere! We even found shops with only those machines stacked 4 high in rows with space barely enough for one person to walk through.
Half way through the day we had to stop from the shopping to keep our appointment at the <a href="http://akiba2960.com/"Akiba Fukurou Owl Cafe</>. Don't let the name fool you, it's not a cafe in the sense that there's food. I'm saying this because I was hungry and waiting to go here for food, lol. This is a shop where along the walls are owls on their perches and around the room are tables for people to sit down and have an owl placed on your arm. They'll place the owl on a perch on the table if you don't want to hold one. They even have gloves for you, if you choose a bigger owl with bigger talons. This is a medium sized one:
There are 2 handlers in the shop to assist you with anything (like cleaning up bird messes, or catching your owl if you let yours go), we learned that from experience! You can pet the owls (they will show you the proper way) and you can hold a maximum of 2 birds during your time allotment. It really was a special place and we all really really enjoyed this experience. They take photos of you with the birds too and email them to you. If you like animals, this is one experience you don't want to miss. The owls are so cute!
After the Owl Cafe, we went looking for food, there were plenty of themed restaurants and such but we just stuck to walking around eating street food and desserts, like these oven fresh buns that just got torched and about to be cut and filled with cream.
At night Akihabara looked more lively. Maybe it's all the impressive neon signs or all the people dressed up as anime characters promoting their shop/restaurant but with hurting feet and too many bags filled with toys, we called it a night. Here's one piece I picked up, SSJG Broly, from Dragonball Z. I've never seen this rendition before and had to get it (he's my favorite character):
Day two starts with an early morning trip to Senso-ji temple. Right before you get to the temple complex are rows of shops but were closed that early in the morning. We did manage to check out those shops after visiting the temple and managed to buy some traditional Japanese souvenirs. As opposed to the ones you get from airports. The Senso-ji complex is pretty big, with different structures like the temple, pagodas, shrines etc. Here's a gateway / entrance to the complex. Check out the size of those hanging paper lanterns!
The pagoda felt comfortable to me, I don't know why and can't explain it. I wish I could have gone in but it was blocked off. So again, I tried to capture just the "essence" of the structure using the infrared spectrum." (second image)
Around the complex I found shrines of all sorts, some had stone statues and some of these statues were clothed.
Next we headed to Tokyo Tower. It's like the Japanese version of the Eiffel Tower except it's red. We went up and saw the view of Tokyo, pretty spectacular but I think it would be much, much nicer from dusk on wards. The midday sun just wasn't doing it for me photographically if you know what i mean, lol.
Well, we're running late again and rushing off to meet a college friend in Harajuku. She took us to Takeshita Street for more shopping and street food! Boy let me tell ya, the shopping here is good, as were the street snacks! It's amazing how fast time flies when you're finding good deals on clothes, says my wife and kids. Needless to say, no photos here either, shopping too good! So off we go to Meiji Shrine. We got there and they were just closing. Yup, didn't see that one coming.
So we headed off to Shibuya crossing to check it out and meet a couple of friends who coincidentally were in Japan as well. We stopped for dinner at a sushi restaurant, in one of the malls we walked through, on the way to Shibuya crossing. It's probably normal sushi by Japan standards but for us, it was SO GOOD! At the crossing, with my hands full and it and being so crowded, I only fired off a few shots. It's quite a sight/experience seeing pedestrians cross an intersection from five different directions within two minutes. Experiencing it is way cooler than watching it happen on screen.
Next up, Pokemon center. My kids are fans but not big fans so they thought it was nice but not that nice. So we left relatively quickly as it was just a big shop selling lots of Pokemon merchandise in a mall. The last stop on our itinerary was Ginza Shopping District but the unanimous decision was to slowly make our way back to the air bnb. We were exhausted and not looking forward to packing.
As our trip came to a close, we were all relieved that we (just barely) managed to fit everything without having to buy another suitcase and as we were about to board our flight home, we agreed that we must visit Japan again.
All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you're interested in buying an image or three, please don't hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!
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